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Foodplant selection and induction of feeding preference among host and non-host plants in larvae of the tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta

Boer, Gerrit, Hanson, Frank E.
Entomologia experimentalis et applicata 1984 v.35 no.2 pp. 177-193
Manduca sexta, Solanaceae, feeding preferences, host plants, instars, larvae, rearing
Ten host plant (Solanaceae) and twelve non-host plant species were tested as foodplants for first instar larvae of the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta. Only nine host and three non-host plant species elicited feeding and supported growth up to fifth instar. The range of acceptability suggested that plants be divided into hosts, acceptable non-hosts, and unacceptable non-hosts. Using the two-choice feeding preference test we found that the initial preference for hosts was preserved when larvae were reared on hosts, but was less strong or absent for larvae reared on acceptable non-hosts. Thus oligophagy in the tobacco hornworm is not induced, but must be inherited. Newly-hatched first instar larvae and fifth instar larvae showed a preference hierarchy among both hosts and non-hosts. Fifth instar larvae reared separately on two different host species showed slightly different preference hierarchies among hosts. The preference for the rearing plant was increased and also two other host species changed positions in hierarchies. Feeding preferences of larvae reared on hosts or acceptable non-hosts were determined using plant combinations of host vs. host, host vs. acceptable non-host, and acceptable non-host vs. acceptable non-host. Induction of feeding preference was found in all three of these categories. This shows that induction of feeding preference in the tobacco hornworm is not restricted to host plant species. The degree to which feeding preferences were induced ranged from very strong to undetectable and dependend on the plant species paired. The strength of induction in the tobacco hornworm was found to correlate inversely with taxonomic relatedness of the plant species paired. Analysis of induction data from the literature revealed a similar correlation for other lepidopteran species.